A woman who had a life-changing kidney transplant thanks to her ‘guardian angel’ has backed calls for more people to talk about organ donation – and help to save lives.

Katrina Vernon will mark the one year anniversary of her kidney transplant this month – as NHS Blood and Transplant uses the annual Organ Donation Week to urge people to tell their families they want to become donors.

The organisation said 46 people in Dorset have died over the past 10 years while on the waiting list for a transplant.

And hundreds of life saving transplants are being missed every year because families don’t know what their relative wanted. Left to make the decision for someone they love, families often decide it is safer to say no.

The reluctance to talk about the issue is contributing to a deadly shortage of organs. In Dorset, there are currently 64 people waiting for a transplant. They will only receive that life changing call if people make sure their families know they want to be a donor. 

Mrs Vernon said her transplant has, quite literally, changed her life and she has gone from undergoing four-hour dialysis sessions three times a week to being able to work, travel abroad and even consider starting a family.

She added: “Most of all it’s doing the things most people take for granted. Being able to walk upstairs, not being tired all the time.”

And she is determined to live her life to the fullest in honour of her donor. She has also become an advocate for a charity called Live Life Give Life, which raises awareness of organ donation.

“I have written a letter to my donor’s family. In their time of grief it was an amazing decision to make. Their relative will always be my guardian angel.

“There aren’t words in the English language that can describe what I want to say to them. Thank you is not enough, and it doesn’t feel appropriate. I think what I want to say is that I’m going to live my life to the fullest in honour of my donor. Everything I achieve from now on will be in my donor’s memory.”

NHS Blood and Transplant surveys show more than 80 per cent of people support organ donation but only around 49 per cent of people have ever talked about it. 

Anthony Clarkson, assistant director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “If you are unsure about donation, please ask yourselves as a family; what would you do if one of you needed a transplant?  Would you accept a life-saving organ? If you’d take an organ, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”

Visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk for more information.